Determination of Credit Hours for Coursework

Pursuant to American Bar Association Standard 310, American University Washington College of Law maintains the following policy to determine the appropriate number of credit hours for coursework performed by students and to ensure faculty compliance.

    I. Appropriate Number of Credit Hours for Coursework

      A. Traditional Courses

      Unless otherwise specified, students will complete at least forty-two and a half hours of coursework per credit hour awarded. For coursework with a classroom component, for each credit hour awarded, students will receive at least one hour of direct faculty instruction for fourteen weeks (or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time), thirty hours of out-of-class academic engagement, and time for a final assessment or additional instruction, as follows:

      Number of Credits Minimum Number of Hours of Classroom Time or Direct Faculty Instruction Aggregate Number of Hours of Out-of-Class Student Academic Engagement (over the course of the semester) Minimum Time for Assessment (length of exam or amount of time spent completing final assessment) or Additional Instruction
      1 14 hours 30 hours 1 hour
      2 28 hours 60 hours 2 hours
      3 42 hours 90 hours 3 hours
      4 56 hours 120 hours 4 hours

      Out-of-class academic engagement is considered in the aggregate over the semester. Some courses are offered under more compressed schedules during a semester. In such situations, the Assistant Dean of Academic Services & Registrar will ensure compliance.

      The Fall and Spring semesters are comprised of (1) fourteen weeks of classroom instruction (plus makeup days for holidays); (2) at least five calendar days for a reading period; and (3) at least ten days for an examination period. The Summer semester is comprised of (1) nine weeks of instruction (plus makeup days for holidays); (2) at least three calendar days for a reading period; and (3) at least five calendar days for an examination period.

      Classes will be scheduled to comply with the amount of classroom time noted above. Instruction times may be adjusted to account for out-of-class, supervised instruction. In such situations, faculty members will be required to justify the deviation from the default in their syllabi. The Assistant Dean of Academic Services & Registrar will assign the amount of in-class time for each class in compliance with this policy.

      1. Courses with In-Class or Take-Home Final Examinations
      2. For courses with final examinations, there is a separate minimum time for assessment based on the total number of credit hours for the course.

      3. Courses with Other Methods of Assessment
      4. Many courses focus on oral and written advocacy. As such, the assessment for some courses is not in the form of a traditional final examination, but a final written or oral assessment. In such courses, the form of assessment, whether a research paper, oral presentation, or a similar advocacy, research, or writing project, will require significant effort in excess of the equivalent number of in-class hours leading up to and during the week of final examinations or at an equivalent time earlier in the semester. At their choosing, faculty members may include additional instruction at the time that would have otherwise been dedicated to a final examination.

      5. Distance Learning Courses
      6. The standards set out in this policy apply equally to in-person and distance education courses.

      B. Independent Studies

      A student must complete at least 42.5 hours of work per semester for each academic credit awarded for an Independent Study. Credit will be awarded only if the student completes at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour, as evaluated by the faculty advisor to the Independent Study. Students must log all hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.

      C. Clinics

      A student must complete at least 42.5 hours of work per semester for each academic credit for working in a law school clinic. Student work will include: (1) all aspects of advising and representing clients; (2) meeting with faculty for regularly scheduled supervision sessions, as well as additional sessions as necessary; and (3) preparing for and attending weekly clinic seminars and case rounds. Through the clinic, students will plan for lawyering activities, perform substantive legal work, receive faculty feedback, and engage in self-reflection. Students must log all casework hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.

      D. Field Placements

      Students in field Placements (externships) must take a seminar in addition to the hours devoted to their field placements. Currently, students in their first field placement must take a three-credit seminar and fieldwork for 1, 2 or 3 credits. Students in advanced externships must take a one-credit seminar plus their fieldwork. While the Faculty is in the process of reconfiguring the allocation of hours between seminar and fieldwork, ultimately the program will meet the basic criterion of 42.5 hours per credit awarded.

      E. Journals and Law Reviews

      The work completed for Law Reviews and Journals constitutes “other academic activities,” as designed by ABA Standard 310. Credit will be awarded only if the student completes at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour, as evaluated by a faculty advisor to the publication. Students must log all hours worked, even after the 42.5 hour per credit hour threshold is satisfied.

      F. Competition Teams

      The work completed for competition teams such as moot courts, mock trials, and other similar activities must constitute at least 42.5 hours of work per credit hour completed. Preparation, legal research, practice, and attendance and participation in competitions will be counted toward the 42.5 hours per credit hour, as evaluated by the faculty advisor to the Competition. Travel time and administrative time may not be included in the calculation.

      G. Variable Credit-Hour Classes

      For classes in which a faculty member permits students to write longer papers in exchange for additional credits, any such additional credits will be in the form of an independent study, and must meet the requirements set forth in Section I.B.

    II. Requirements for Faculty Compliance

    Faculty members will be required to submit a form each semester with their syllabi certifying that their courses comply with this policy.


1 Per ABA Interpretation 310-1, “fifty minutes suffices for one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction” under Standard 310. See Managing Director’s Guidance Memo, Standard 310 (May 2016).